The 2012 Lent season began Feb. 22, on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a 40-day period before Easter that begins on Ash Wednesday. During this 40-day period, Sundays are not counted because they commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Lent is a time of intensive soul searching, repentance and reflection. People take further inventory of their lives and try to establish closer relationships with God.
Lent originated in the early days of the church as a preparatory time for Easter. During this time, the faithful rededicated themselves and converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism.
By observing the 40 days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for 40 days of praying and fasting.
Because Easter falls on a different date each year, the start of Lent varies from year to year. This year, it began Feb. 22 and will culminate April 7, the day before Easter.
Many churches throughout Liberty County and the surrounding areas recognize Lent as a time of fasting, prayer, repentance and self discipline. Time is set aside for various types of fasting. Some people abstain from meats and sweets. Churches also designate more time for members to come together in prayer.
Members of St Stephen Catholic Church in Hinesville, under the leadership of Father Thomas J. Murphy, once again are observing Lent.
“Chapter 3 of the book of Ecclesiastes proclaims, ‘There is an appointed time for everything.’ Nature has seasons. Our lives have seasons, and the liturgical cycle of the church has seasons. Now is the season for Lent,” Murphy said. “The tradition of Lent comes from the gospels (Matthew, chapter 4). During this time, Jesus spent 40 days (a holy number meaning ‘a complete time’ to the Jewish people) in the desert fasting and praying. Jesus maintains a perfect unity with His father in heaven — all through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Christians, like their Jewish counterparts in the Old Testament, use ashes as a symbol of their mortality,” Murphy said. “Priests and other ministers of the gospel furrow the sign of the cross on the forehead with ashes praying, ‘Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.’”
The last part of Lent, Holy Week, is April 1-7, and Easter is April 8.
St. Stephen’s Lenten schedule is as follows:
• Confessions: 4 p.m. Saturdays
• Vigil Mass: 5 p.m. Saturdays
• Sunday Masses: 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
• Daily Mass: 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday
• Holy hour and Confessions: 6-7 p.m. Wednesdays
The Holy Week and Easter schedules will be announced at a later date. Different priests will participate in the services during Lent.
St. Stephen is at 399 Woodland Drive in Hinesville. Murphy and the St. Stephens family invite the public to be a part of their Lenten celebration. For more information, call the church at 876-4364.